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The Art of Suffering

Pastor Dan's Sermon for Saturday August 18th, 2018

· Teaching

How many people want to experience the depths of Christ? Let me put it this way: If God had a strategy for you to share in deeper fellowship with Him, that you were not doing, would you be open to it? Or in more simple language: Do you want to know God’s love more? Well the Bible is far from silent on this topic. I’m going to purpose to you a strategy to know God that is mostly unfamiliar in the financially prosperous American church.

Can you guess what it is? (okay we’ll get there, hang in there)

Context: Peter’s shadow was healing people—Extraordinary miracles like this were taking place at the hands of the apostles in the name of Jesus. Many people were beginning to follow Jesus and the religious leaders were trying all they could to shut it down without ruining their own reputation and risking their own lives.

Acts 5:12–16 (ESV) — 12 Now many signs and wonders were regularly done among the people by the hands of the apostles. And they were all together in Solomon’s Portico. 13 None of the rest dared join them, but the people held them in high esteem. 14 And more than ever believers were added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women, 15 so that they even carried out the sick into the streets and laid them on cots and mats, that as Peter came by at least his shadow might fall on some of them. 16 The people also gathered from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing the sick and those afflicted with unclean spirits, and they were all healed.

Acts 5:17–42 (ESV) — 17 But the high priest rose up, and all who were with him (that is, the party of the Sadducees), and filled with jealousy 18 they arrested the apostles and put them in the public prison. 19 But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the prison doors and brought them out, and said, 20 “Go and stand in the temple and speak to the people all the words of this Life.” 21 And when they heard this, they entered the temple at daybreak and began to teach. Now when the high priest came, and those who were with him, they called together the council, all the senate of the people of Israel, and sent to the prison to have them brought. 22 But when the officers came, they did not find them in the prison, so they returned and reported, 23 “We found the prison securely locked and the guards standing at the doors, but when we opened them we found no one inside.” 24 Now when the captain of the temple and the chief priests heard these words, they were greatly perplexed about them, wondering what this would come to. 25 And someone came and told them, “Look! The men whom you put in prison are standing in the temple and teaching the people.” 26 Then the captain with the officers went and brought them, but not by force, for they were afraid of being stoned by the people. 27 And when they had brought them, they set them before the council. And the high priest questioned them, 28 saying, “We strictly charged you not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and you intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.” 29 But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men. 30 The God of our fathers raised Jesus, whom you killed by hanging him on a tree. 31 God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. 32 And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.” 33 When they heard this, they were enraged and wanted to kill them. 34 But a Pharisee in the council named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law held in honor by all the people, stood up and gave orders to put the men outside for a little while. 35 And he said to them, “Men of Israel, take care what you are about to do with these men. 36 For before these days Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody, and a number of men, about four hundred, joined him. He was killed, and all who followed him were dispersed and came to nothing. 37 After him Judas the Galilean rose up in the days of the census and drew away some of the people after him. He too perished, and all who followed him were scattered. 38 So in the present case I tell you, keep away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or this undertaking is of man, it will fail; 39 but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You might even be found opposing God!” So they took his advice, 40 and when they had called in the apostles, they beat them and charged them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. 41 Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name. 42 And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching that the Christ is Jesus.

We see an increase of power (see Acts 5:12-16) but we also see suffering (see Acts 5:40-41). God uses power encounters (Miracles, healing, gifts, signs and wonders, etc.) and suffering to draw us deeper in our relationship with Christ

Philippians 3:10 (ESV) — 10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death,

Phil 3:10 seems to suggests that the power of the resurrected Christ and the fellowship of his sufferings are to be thought of NOT as two totally separate experiences but as alternate aspects of the same experience

Six things I’ve learned from the early Church to the art of Suffering

  1. When you suffer, suffer with Jesus and for Jesus.
    1. Philippians 1:29 (ESV) — 29 For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake,
    2. Acts 5:41 (ESV) — 41 Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name (Of Jesus).
    3. Philippians 3:10 (ESV) — 10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death,
  1. You don’t need to pray for suffering in your life. Suffering will happen and it’s about our response to suffering that matters.
    1. There is no biblical precedent to pray for suffering to happen in your life, or deliberately inflict needless pain in your life.
      1. However, Fasting and self denial, while not necessarily suffering, is a God ordained tool to fellowship with the sufferings of Christ.
  1. You should usually pray for an ending of suffering, even if God has ordained you to go through it. Part of the growth comes through praying and trusting God to end the suffering.
    1. James 5:13–15 (ESV) — 13 Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. 14 Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.
  1. If suffering comes as a result of righteous living, we can rest assured the Lord delights in our endurance of it for His sake.
    1. Matthew 5:10–12 (ESV) — 10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
  1. Rejoice in the Lord always.

Philippians 4:4–9 (ESV) — 4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. 5 Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; 6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. 9 What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

1 Peter 4:13–16 (ESV) — 13 But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. 14 If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. 15 But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. 16 Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name.

Luke 6:22–23 (ESV) — 22 “Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man! 23 Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets.

How to prepare for suffering:

Trials, tribulation, suffering and persecution is often where the rubber hits the road. I’ve seen it over and over again in the college setting. Something as “small” as finals can really cause distress, a trial of sorts, in a student to the point where they fall into sin and disappear from Christian community.

Here are four tips I’ve seen help people actually prepare people to grow closer to God through suffering rather than farther away.

  1. Focus on obedience, not results.
    1. Did the apostles try to avoid suffering or control the outcome? What would have happened if they did?
    2. Immediately they started preaching in the temple. If you have a theology that evades suffering, you will not respond in the manor of the disciples.
    3. Rejoice in obedience, celebrate it in others why you see it.
  1. Pray a lot!
    1. This is a spiritual revelation not a human response. It is the fruit of Joy produced by the Spirit in the Christian

1 Corinthians 2:14 (ESV) — 14 The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.

  1. Confess the idol of comfort.
    1. Who’s an example of comfort being an idol thus far in the early church? (Ananias, Sapphira saducees)
    2. There is absolutely nothing wrong with receiving comfort from the “God of all comfort.” I’ve heard people preach the opposite, as if comfort is inherently evil. If comfort is evil I’ve got a theological issue here, Because the Bible tells us that He is the “God of all comfort”.
    3. Comfort becomes an idol when it becomes a barrier to obeying Christ.
  1. Run to comfort those in pain and minister to them.
    1. Compassion literally means to “suffer with” so one way to fellowship in Christ sufferings is to put your place into some else’s shoes. And meet their needs.
Lets read the Apostles Response to suffering again:

40 and when they had called in the apostles, they beat them and charged them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. 41 Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name. 42 And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching that the Christ is Jesus. (Acts 5:40-42)

Rather than emerging from their beating repentant, the apostles went home rejoicing. They did not enjoy the beating, but they considered it an honor to suffer disgrace for the sake of Jesus’ name

Prayer:

Lord we long to know you more and need your Holy Spirit to help us know you more specifically through suffering. We know that you’ve called us to fellowship in your suffering. help us encounter the joy of obedience and embrace obeying you with joy, even if it means persecution or suffering. Amen!

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